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Trendsetters: Patrón Spirits' CMO Lee Applbaum Discusses Brand Authenticity & Connecting with Consumers' Evolving Interests
Ask Lee Applbaum about success, and he'll tell you that it can sometimes be your worst enemy. Patrón is the world's best-selling premium tequila, but he admits that few understand the process and people behind the brand's quality and authenticity—and, ultimately, its uniqueness. Despite its global scale and mass distribution, Patrón is hand-crafted in small batches to produce a super-premium product.
Speaking earlier this month at the ANA's Brand Masters conference on the "Patrón Paradox," he reminded the marketer audience that it takes 60 hands to make a bottle of Patrón tequila. Not only is it a luxury brand with great style and swagger, but Patrón has never paid for an endorsement or a tweet.
However, Lee Applbaum wants to insure that the world understands as much about Patrón's substance as its style, especially at a time when consumers want more insight into their favorite products. His work at Patrón Spirits—in a very short time—has made a significant difference to the brand in effectively unifying perceptions of style and substance through digital connections, social conversations and an immersive experience for engaging the trade. He also demonstrates that—when done right-- contemporary marketing ideas can be both entertaining and deeply educational.
Digital storytelling is one of the pillars of Applebaum's marketing strategy, particularly in terms of what he refers to as "Patrón-worthy moments" that leverage key social media audiences to talk about quality and authenticity. His approach has enabled significant discussion between consumers and the trade, while developing a new level of trust in the brand.
Through his direction, Patrón launched of The Art of Patrón Virtual Reality Experience to allow consumers to experience a 360° tour of Hacienda Patrón in Jalisco from a "bee's-eye view." (The bee is now a symbolic part of the Patrón label.) He used Oculus Rift technology to create a "live-action-with-drone" video that took viewers from the agave fields to the bottling process-- all from the perspective of the Patrón bee, now a recognized part of the brand's logo. Lee Applbaum says it proved to be "transformational" for the super-premium tequila brand.
Another project is called "Know your tequila by NOM," which provides a tour around Mexico for an encyclopedic exploration of tequila producers, their distilleries and the 1400 brands they produce. Each tequila producer is regulated and assigned a unique ID—a four-digit number—that appears on every bottle. Called a NOM number, Patrón suggests that knowing the NOM is the first step to knowing tequila. Anyone can enter a brand name or NOM number to learn about a tequila producer. The only subtle branding is the Patrón "bee" superimposed on the topography of the tequila-growing regions of Mexico.
Lee Applbaum is responsible for leading Patrón Spirits' luxury portfolio of brands. He directs all global integrated marketing efforts across creative, media, PR, product development and innovation, and experiential activation in over 100 countries.
Prior to Patrón, he led large marketing and sales organizations at Target Australia, RadioShack, David's Bridal, and Footstar Athletic. Lee began his career at Coca-Cola, where he held a variety of marketing and management roles. Throughout his tenure, he led the development and execution of innovative branded programs across a range of global dining, hospitality, and retail clients. He holds a B.B.A. in marketing from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.